November 1, 2013 10:02:29 AM
David Shaw, Mississippi State University's vice president for research and economic development, said growing interest in the second phase of expansions at the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park could culminate into new partnerships next year.
Shaw was in India this week on business. Before heading overseas, he told The Dispatch that MSU officials have had discussions with at least two entities about future endeavors at the park.
"I don't have any doubt in my mind that we're going to see some activity in 2014 that clearly show we have momentum," he said. "What we have talked about at the (Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning) level is that every university needs to say what their strengths are and recruit things that complement and strengthen them further. This is premium space. We're trying to be very careful that we don't just open it up and say that we want any research partner we can get if we don't have the program that matches them."
The 272-acre research park, which opened in 1989, is home to nine buildings and about 1,500 employees. Paired with MSU initiatives, it is one of the premier hosts of cutting edge research in the state.
C Spire announced last month it will construct a $22 million data-processing center on a 6.5-acre site within the park. That move, Shaw said, involves the area's final phase one parcel. Phase two expansions will focus on a tract of land roughly 50 acres near a facility housing II-VI (pronounced "two-six") Inc., a high tech manufacturer based out of Pennsylvania. Utilities are in place for prospective suitors, he said, and Technology Boulevard, a new four-lane roadway that adds an additional ingress into the park via Miss. Highway 182 near the Veterans Memorial Rose Garden, opened in June.
Shaw said future developments in the area are expected to be more densely configured than the park's first phase, possibly allowing tandem efforts with the site's established neighbor. The site is not yet platted, he said, to allow for flexibility.
"What you're looking at here is the opportunity to be right next door to II-VI and any expansions to that facility, and the ability to talk to new industry. This is premium space that will either go for something already directly working with the university or that at least opens up the opportunity (for research initiatives)," he said. "There's interest now; we have demand. It's not like we're conjecturing about 10 years down the line. It's a wonderful problem to be thinking about how we're going to fill this up."
Since C Spire's announcement, local developers have consistently referred to building economic traction in Oktibbeha County. Officials across many offices, from the Golden Triangle Development Link to city and county governance, referred to that project's finalization as a sign that Starkville is open for business.
Coupled with ongoing local projects like The Mill at MSU and Yokohama Tire Company's major Clay County investment, Shaw said the Golden Triangle - Starkville, Oktibbeha County and MSU, specifically - will reap the benefits of the economic resurgence many officials are hoping to come in the next five to 10 years.
With increased economic traction, Shaw said he and other university officials are keeping an eye on future park expansions.
"We're always thinking about the future and have really started that thought process. We don't want this to be the last 45 acres we see developed," he said. "This whole package with where we are and where we're going is built upon the vision that a lot of great people had 20-30 years ago. I and a lot of others are going to be the beneficiaries of that vision. Just like with the Research Triangle in North Carolina, this didn't happen overnight."
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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